Mario Anthony Hernandez (Booking Photo)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.– A Rancho Cucamonga jury on Friday convicted Mario Anthony Hernandez of five felony counts of molesting a young relative between the ages of 8 to 10.
Hernandez, 59, of Upland, was convicted of three counts of Sodomy with a Child Aged 10 or Younger, one count of Oral Copulation with a Child Aged 10 or Younger, and one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.
According to Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who prosecuted the case, the victim stated that Hernandez would withhold food and privileges from him unless he submitted to sexual acts, telling the boy “You owe me.”
Hernandez would also refuse to sign the boy’s school planner or homework if he did not submit to sexual acts. Occasionally, the defendant would threaten the boy with harm if he did not cooperate.
“The victim’s eleven-year-old brother told police that he had observed one incident of sodomy through the blinds that separated the boys’ room from the defendant’s room, and that he had heard the bed shaking another time,” said Schmauss.
The defendant and his wife became legal guardians of the two boys after they were temporarily removed from their parents. The victim said the defendant had started molesting him when he was only 3, and that the abuse escalated when he turned 8. The defendant also showed the boy pornography. The molestations always occurred when the defendant’s wife was out of the house, usually at work.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s courtroom comfort dog, Lupe, assisted both the victim and his brother during their courtroom testimony. This trial was the first in the county to use the comfort dog during a jury trial.
“It was very difficult for the victim, now age twelve, to testify about the terrible abuse he suffered at the hands of the defendant,” said Schmauss. “He was on the stand for three days, two of which were under cross-examination. But he did a great job, and the jury said they believed him completely. The defendant will never be able to harm another child.”
The trial took 20 days over a 7-week period before Judge Stan Reichert. The jury deliberated three days before returning its verdicts. The defendant faces 106 years to life in prison when he is sentenced June 28.